Posted by: MicheleLisa | February 14, 2012

Henro Day 3: Reflection

It’s no surprise that I like hiking, so it should also be no surprise that day 3 was one of my favourite days.

The trail from temple 11 to temple 12 is a ‘Henro Korogashi’ which I’ve only seen translated as Pilgrim falls down.  I think a better translation would be Pilgrim’s downfall.  There are a few points along the pilgrimage which are known as Korogashi, and they are known as that because they are particularly steep or arduous, and day 3 is the first test for any pilgrim.

I’ve spoken to another friend who attempted doing the pilgrimage a few years ago, and day 3 was as far as he got, so I was a little nervous about what to expect.  In fact, I was quite ready to pull out if the weather went bad, or it was too difficult to do in trail runners.  A funny thing, at temple 11 there is a mini pilgrimage before you start the trail, so if you don’t make it you could just pay your respects at the little shrines circling Fujidera.


Overall, I found my first Korogashi not too bad.  None of the mountains were particularly tall, and all the steep areas had stairs.  It would still have been nice to have a walking stick though.  It was a bit annoying that it wasn’t like a ridge walk, and you had to go all the way up and then all the way down all three peaks.  There were also a few people on the trail, not only fellow pilgrims, but also locals out for some exercise.

One thing I love about hiking is being in nature.  Japan has really lovely scenery, quite different from what I’m accustomed to in Australia.  Day 3 was mostly hiking through cedar forests, which have this mysterious air to them I think.  And there were a few bamboo groves along the way as well as a great view of the river basin that I walked across the previous day.

Arriving at Shosanji was a little surreal.  It is a very pretty temple, but the contrast between the natural forest on the trail and the not-so-natural scenery at the temple was a little disconcerting.  Or maybe it was running into all the bus pilgrim crowds.  Shosanji has an interesting story about it’s foundation, apparently a dragon was terrorising the mountain, but was contained in a cave by Kobo Daishi, thus saving the people of the mountain.

My accommodation for the night (Nabeiwa-so) would have to be my favourite place I stayed the whole trip.  It was really really lovely, and also probably the best value for money.  I think the building was somewhat new, but built in a rustic style, and even smelled of fresh cut wood.  There were about 8 Henro staying that night (mostly older retired men, but also one other woman), so dinner in the dining hall was a very lively affair.  Oh, and dinner was really yummy, fresh greens, rice, miso, and tempura!

The mix of people I met this day was very interesting.  It included a two local men who were out for some morning exercise by hiking the first mountain.  A couple of young university students from Kansai doing a few days on trail.  A woman from Shizuoka doing the trail a few days at a time.  Another man from Tochigi who was planning on doing about 2 weeks.  And also an older man who was doing the trail in reverse, and for the 5th time!  They say doing the trail in reverse is something like 3 times harder than the regular way.

So, finally, here’s  a picture of me, just to show you how I was kitted out.  I’m wearing the pilgrim’s white coat, but my little bag of supplies was in my backpack that day.  I also ended up wearing my rain jacket under the coat quite frequently as I found it to be a good wind breaker.  Apart from that I was wearing just a long sleeve t-shirt, hiking trousers, trail runners and a head sock or cap.  Although you can’t see it, my pack looked big, but was only about 6kg, and on the waist strap I have my camera bag.  Not going to win any beauty contests with this outfit, but it was really comfortable and functional.


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